• Apt Pupil (Umbrella Entertainment) Blu-ray Review



    Released by: Umbrella Entertainment
    Released on: January 2nd, 2019.
    Director: Bryan Singer
    Cast: Brad Renfro, Ian McKellen, Joshua Jackson, Heather McComb
    Year: 1998
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    Apt Pupil – Movie Reviews:

    Based on Stephen King’s short story of the same name (published in the Different Seasons collection way back when in 1982), Apt Pupil takes place not in main but in the Southern California of the 1980’s. The story revolves around Todd Bowden (Brad Renfro), a high school student who has an unusual interest, an obsession, really, in the history of World War II. Specifically, Todd is interested in Nazis. Todd isn’t the most popular guy around but he’s got a good friend in the form of Joey (Joshua Jackson) and he’s got a kinda-sorta relationship with a girl named Becky (Heather McComb) to provide some sort of social life.

    When Todd discovers that there’s a Nazi war criminal named Kurt Dussander (Ian McKellen) living in his very neighborhood under the assumed name of Arthur Denker, he can’t help but want to meet him. When he does, he encourages and eventually succeeds in getting the aged man to tell him his story and provide him with details of what he did during the Second World War as an officer of the SS. He does this by threatening to turn him in if he doesn’t oblige. As Todd spends more time with Dussander and his obsession grows, he even goes so far as to purchase an SS uniform and force him to wear it all while his grades drop and he ignores his girlfriend. This gives Dussander leverage over Todd, allowing him to threaten to expose Todd’s obsession and forcing him to improve his grades.

    Things go from bad to worse when a homeless man spots Dussander in uniform and the old man attempts to kill him in order to keep him quiet…

    Bryan Singer is the elephant in the room here. In 1997, a fourteen-year-old extra sued, accusing Singer of coercing he and a few others into getting naked for a shower scene. The suit was kicked out of court for insufficient evidence, but as most of us know by this point, there have been a string of other unseemly allegations against the director in the years since, culminating in a scathing exposé that was published in January of this year in The Atlantic. Without going into spoiler territory, there are elements that come into play towards the end of the movie that can’t help but leave a bad taste in your mouth given the allegations against the director at this point.

    That being said, even if you remove those issues the movie has some problems. The acting is excellent. Renfro is eerie and convincing in his part and Ian McKellen really couldn’t be better in his role. The film’s technical merits are also strong. It features impressive cinematography, some memorably staged set pieces and a good score. What it lacks, however, is much of a point. It builds nicely but fails to really provide a conclusion strong enough to make what came before pay off. The film doesn’t seem to know if it wants to be a message movie, a dark social drama or a horror picture. As such, it doesn’t do any of that as well as you’d want it to, and the film ends not with a bang but with a melodramatic whimper, spoiling a strong first half that is neither frightening nor as interesting as it could and should have been.

    Apt Pupil – Blu-ray Review:

    Umbrella Entertainment brings Apt Pupil to Blu-ray using an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer framed at 2.35.1 widescreen on a 50GB disc. There are no problems with compression here but some sharpening is evident here and there. Aside from that, detail isn’t bad at all and there’s good depth to the image. Colors look nice and natural and whatever unspecified elements that were used for the transfer were clearly in great shape as the image shows no problematic print damage at all. This likely came from an existing master and a new scan could have probably brought out more detail than we see here, but it looks okay.

    The English language DTS-HD 2.0 Stereo track on the disc is problem free. Dialogue stays clean and clear throughout the entity of the film and the score sounds really good. Balance is fine and there are no problems to note with any hiss or distortion. Optional subtitles are provided in English only.

    Extras are all archival pieces. We get a quick seven-minute featurette that includes some very short cast and crew interviews as well as some behind the scenes footage. Additionally, the disc includes a handful of TV spots for the film, the picture’s original theatrical trailer, menus and chapter selection. For those with an aversion to ratings logos cluttering up cover art, Umbrella does offer a reversible option for this release, featuring a ‘ratings logo-free’ version of the cover.

    Apt Pupil – The Final Word:

    It’s hard not to bring Bryan Singer’s recent controversies into account when evaluating Apt Pupil, which isn’t really fair to the rest of the people involved in the picture. Still, even if you can separate the art from the artist, the film has its share of problems. That said, if it is a misfire – and it is – it is at least an interesting one and if nothing else, the performances are excellent. Umbrella’s Blu-ray release is light on extras but it looks and sounds decent enough.

    Click on the images below for full sized Apt Pupil Blu-ray screen caps!






























    Comments 10 Comments
    1. Mark Tolch's Avatar
      Mark Tolch -
      I forgot David Schwimmer was in this, haha. Anyway, I've said it before, there's no way that this film was going to get anywhere near the tone of the short story without offending the hell out of everyone.
    1. moviegeek86's Avatar
      moviegeek86 -
      Not the misfire this review makes you believe. It's an interesting and well acted picture and I liked what they did with the ending. Bryan Singer is a disgusting human being but he was a solid director.
    1. Mark Tolch's Avatar
      Mark Tolch -
      This review and 89% of the general movie-watching public. Its well acted, but the script is a piece of shit and not even the best damn director inthe world could have saved it.
    1. moviegeek86's Avatar
      moviegeek86 -
      Quote Originally Posted by Mark Tolch View Post
      This review and 89% of the general movie-watching public. Its well acted, but the script is a piece of shit and not even the best damn director inthe world could have saved it.
      Huh? 89%? Do you have facts to support this claim?
    1. Mark Tolch's Avatar
      Mark Tolch -
      Quote Originally Posted by moviegeek86 View Post
      Huh? 89%? Do you have facts to support this claim?
      Easy boss, was largely joking. Just saying that opinions are important, but I'm in agreement with the review that it's a misfire, and a bad one at that. In any event, you have the honor of being the first person I've heard express nice things about this one.
    1. Darcy Parker's Avatar
      Darcy Parker -
      The biggest issue is that the original story is just plain not something you could get away with making a movie out of, so the movie is just the basic concept and a few scenes from King, and a ton of afterschool special-level drama to pad the running time. It lost most of the nasty edge that made the story something that you can’t put down, but also hate yourself for reading.
    1. Mark Tolch's Avatar
      Mark Tolch -
      Quote Originally Posted by Darcy Parker View Post
      The biggest issue is that the original story is just plain not something you could get away with making a movie out of, so the movie is just the basic concept and a few scenes from King, and a ton of afterschool special-level drama to pad the running time. It lost most of the nasty edge that made the story something that you can’t put down, but also hate yourself for reading.
      I would agree with that 100%. When I heard they were making a movie, I was like, "No fucking way are they going to have this part...or that part....or this part...." it doesn't get any nastier than McKellen putting a cat in the oven. And that ugliness is what makes the short story so compelling, and, as you said, makes you hate yourself for reading it.
    1. Darcy Parker's Avatar
      Darcy Parker -
      It also loses a LOT from the compression of the timeline. In the book, the kid starts things with the blackmail when he’s 11 or so, and the things he learns warp him as he goes through puberty, and it ends when he’s about to graduate high school. Having it all be when he’s a high schooler reduces the impact of him being told all the horrible details of the concentration camps when he’s way too young to be hearing those things.
    1. Mark Tolch's Avatar
      Mark Tolch -
      That's part of what makes the story so great, though, is that it's character development of what seems to be a genuinely nasty person, but really, there's an argument to be made for the case that his brain was warped at a young age.
    1. Darcy Parker's Avatar
      Darcy Parker -
      Quote Originally Posted by Mark Tolch View Post
      That's part of what makes the story so great, though, is that it's character development of what seems to be a genuinely nasty person, but really, there's an argument to be made for the case that his brain was warped at a young age.
      Absolutely. King makes it clear that the kid is already a bit evil, and the years of learning from a real monster makes him into a complete beast, hence the title.